European People’s Party (EPP) President, Manfred Weber, said the centre-right group has cancelled an event scheduled to take place in Naples this year. The cancellation is in protest at comments by ex-premier and Forza Italia (FI) leader Silvio Berlusconi criticising Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The EPP’s President announced the party has cancelled an event in Naples later this year following Berlusconi’s comments on Sunday regarding Ukraine President Zelensky.
“Following the remarks by Silvio Berlusconi on Ukraine we decided to cancel our study days in Naples,” Weber said via Twitter.
“Support for Ukraine is not optional”.
Forza Italia reacted angrily to the decision of the EPP to cancel the event.
What caused EPP to cancel?
On Sunday, Berlusconi said he would “never” have met with Zelensky as Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni did on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels last week. He went further, adding he had a “very, very negative” view of Zelensky’s conduct and suggesting Moscow had been provoked into invading its neighbour.
The EPP, which Forza Italia belongs to, publicly rejected those statements on Tuesday. Weber singled out Berlusconi on Friday, saying Forza Italia and its national coordinator, Foreign Minister and Deputy Premier Antonio Tajani, “have our full support”.
“We continue the cooperation with the Italian government on EU topics,” he added.
Meloni’s government, which FI supports, has staunchly backed Ukraine following the Russian invasion. The PM has followed in the footsteps of the previous executive of ex-premier Mario Draghi.
Tajani criticised the EPP’s decision. “Berlusconi is Forza Italia. Forza Italia is Berlusconi,” Tajani tweeted. “I don’t agree with the decision to postpone the Naples meeting. Berlusconi and FI have always voted in the same way as the EPP on Ukraine”.
FI’s parliamentary whips, Licia Ronzulli and Alessandro Cattaneo, blasted the decision too in a statement, calling on Weber “not to intervene again”.
“The question is not just the cancellation of the study days, which harms not just the party, but Italy too, but also the desire to enter into the internal life of a party… excluding its leaders,” the statement said. “This is unacceptable”.